Home/Syllabus

Overview

Welcome to World Literature! Together we will not only be reading modern literature by authors from around the world, but we will be exploring the context of that literature- the history, geography, politics, culture, and people that make up the authors world.  We will be writing, reading, discussing, being creative about, and, in general, absorbing the work of people who do not live in our western, United States-oriented world.

Materials
Students are required to bring the following to class daily:

-Interactive Journal (3-Subject 5 Star Mead STRONGLY Preferred)

                  -Pen (NO PENCIL)

                  -Student Planner/Homework Log

                  -Your current class novel

Failure to bring these items daily will result in your inability to participate in class- and a loss of grade.

Grades

Grades will be point based. They are broken down across 4 major categories:

25% - Tests/Non Journal Class Assignments

25% - Interactive Journal/Formal Essays

25% - Participation

25% - Blog Project

Blog Project

This semester our work will revolve around two broad themes:

Theme 1: Human migration- what motivates people to move from their ancestral home?

Theme 2: Poverty to power- what is the affect of moving from the bottom to the top rung of society (and back again)?

As part of our examination of these themes you will be keeping a blog, with entries created at least once a week. These entries will be centered on the theme that we are examining, but will take a variety of forms, such as diary entries, critique of an article, response to the class novel, and more. Details and setup of the blog will occur during week two of class.

Novels to be Read this Semester (Descriptions taken from Amazon.com)

They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky by Benjamin Ajak, Benson Deng, Alephonsian Deng, and Judy Bernstein

Raised by Sudan's Dinka tribe, the Deng brothers and their cousin Benjamin (the authors) were all under the age of seven when they left their homes after terrifying attacks on their villages during the Sudanese civil war. In 2001, the three were relocated to the U.S. from Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp as part of an international refugee relief program. Arriving in this country, they immediately began to fill composition books with the memoirs of chaos and culture shock collected here. Well written, often poetic essays by Benson, Alepho and Benjamin, who are now San Diego residents in their mid-20s, are arranged in alternating chapters and recall their childhood experiences, their treacherous trek and their education in the camp ("People were learning under trees"). Other pieces remember the rampant disease and famine among refugees, and the tremendous hardship of day-to-day living ("Refugee life was like being devoured by wild animals").

Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario

Seeking to understand why Latina single mothers leave their children to come to the U.S., and why many children undertake the hazardous journey to reunite with them, author Nazario traced one family's story. Enrique was determined to find his mother, who left him in Honduras when he was five. At 16, after seven attempts to make it to Texas, robbed by bandits or police, beaten, jailed, and deported again and again, he finally reached the Rio Grande and earned enough to call her. She sent him money to pay a coyote to smuggle him across the border and the two were reunited, but they are strangers now, their relationship strained. Meanwhile, Enrique's girlfriend in Honduras bore his child. Ultimately, she joined him, leaving their three-year-old daughter behind. Mothers leave their children to send back money for better food, clothing, and schooling, yet years of separation strain family ties. The author retraced Enrique's journey by traveling on top of trains, hitchhiking, taking buses, facing the dangers the teen faced. Photographs and interviews with him, family members, other children, and those who provide aid along the way document the hazards of migration. Descriptions of rapes, beatings, and jailing of immigrant children and accounts of those who suffered loss of limbs falling from freight trains are graphic and disturbing. But no one can doubt the authenticity of this reporting.

Q&A by Vikas Swarup

Vikas Swarup's spectacular debut novel opens in a jail cell in Mumbai, India, where Ram Mohammad Thomas is being held after correctly answering all twelve questions on India's biggest quiz show, Who Will Win a Billion? It is hard to believe that a poor orphan who has never read a newspaper or gone to school could win such a contest. But through a series of exhilarating tales Ram explains to his lawyer how episodes in his life gave him the answer to each question. Ram takes us on an amazing review of his own history -- from the day he was found as a baby in the clothes donation box of a Delhi church to his employment by a faded Bollywood star to his adventure with a security-crazed Australian army colonel to his career as an overly creative tour guide at the Taj Mahal. Swarup's Q & A is a beguiling blend of high comedy, drama, and romance that reveals how we know what we know -- not just about trivia, but about life itself. Cutting across humanity in all its squalor and glory, Vikas Swarup presents a kaleidoscopic vision of the struggle between good and evil -- and what happens when one boy has no other choice in life but to survive.

Becoming Madam Mao by Anchee Min

A girl called Yunhe is born to a rural concubine in 1919; she renames herself Lan Ping when, in 1934, she runs away to Shanghai with ambitions to be an actress, and later joins the Red Army; and finally, she is dubbed Jiang Ching by the man she marries, Mao Zedong. Madame Mao has become a myth, but Min has the background and the insight to imagine her afresh, and to create a complex psychological portrait of a driven, passionate woman and a period of history in which she would suffer, rise and prosper, and then fall victim to her own insatiable thirst for power. Min draws Madame Mao with bold, arresting strokes, gives her a fierce, imperious voice and a personality devoid of humility or self-knowledge. Lan Ping sets out to seduce the charismatic Mao, and wins him--for a time--until her jealousy, the machinations of his trusted aides, and Mao's own loss of interest cast her into limbo. By then a veteran of the inner circle betrayals that Mao encouraged, Jiang Ching's attempts to wrest personal power, but that becomes her undoing. As with a fine ink brush, Min details her heroine's series of love affairs and marriages, divorces and acrimonious partings, roles in Chinese opera and movies, endurance in the shadow of Mao's disfavor, desperate ploys to regain his attention, and brief time in the limelight during the Cultural Revolution. As a chronicle of ambition, betrayal, murder, revenge, barbaric cruelty, paranoia and internecine rivalry, the narrative speeds through its turbulent time frame: 1919-1991. But it is foremost a character study of a determined, vindictive, rage-filled, cruel and emotionally needy woman who flourished because she reinvented herself as an actress in different, self-defined roles-- and because China was ready for her. Min uses several effective prose devices to spin her narrative at top speed. Short first- and third-person vignettes juxtapose Madame Mao's early experience with the comments of an omniciscient narrator who relates pivotal circumstances to events that will grow from their consequences. Such foreshadowing not only raises tension, it also helps readers construct a mental chart of historical figures and events. Striking metaphors and vivid Chinese proverbs enhance Min's tensile prose, but it is her trenchant comments about the ways in which powerful individuals can paint bold colors on the panorama of history that distinguishes her spellbinding novel.

Interactive Journal

Your interactive journal is a critical component of this class.  All daily activities, including daily Mini-Lessons, class notes, and homework, will be in this journal.  Journals will be graded 2 times during the quarter with 5 assignments chosen at random for grading during each check. Journal grades are worth 25% of your final grade.

Participation

Participation, or the act of thoughtfully expressing yourself, is a critical part of this class.  Your participation grade will have 2 parts:                 

                 Formal (12.5% of your grade)

We will have formal discussions and debates several times during this quarter.  Your participation in these activities, including the amount of comments made, their appropriateness, and thoughtfulness, will be scored using a rubric.

                  Informal (12.5% of your grade)

                  Your informal participation grade is solely the decision of Mr. Oskin

Rules

There are 4 rules in this class:

  1. Be Professional
  2. Be Attentive
  3. Be Respectful
  4. Be Studious

If your actions in class in any way violate the above rules, then you will be given an appropriate consequence. These can include a warning, a phone call home, a home visit, or other formal procedures.

Late Work

Any work is late if it is not ready to be checked/collected when called for by Mr. Oskin. Work may be turned in late with a penalty of 1 letter grade off per day late. All work, no matter how late, will be eligible for up to 70% credit so long as it turned in 5 days before the end of the grading period.

Absences

Absences must be excused through the attendance secretary. Each unexcused absence will result in a “0” for any activities on that day. Students with excused absences will be expected to contact their fellow students regarding work missed.  MORE THAN 5 UNEXCUSED ABSENCES WILL RESULT IN AN AUTOMATIC GRADE OF “F” FOR THE SEMESTER UNLESS CLEARED BY SATURDAY SCHOOL!

Tardy Policy

The tardy policy is to not be tardy. Your class is in the middle of the school day- get here on time.

Plagiarism/Cheating

Plagiarism and cheating will simply not be tolerated. If a student is suspected of plagiarism or cheating then they will receive a “0” for the assignment in question. Cheating on a test will result in an automatic 1-letter grade deduction from your final grade.

Communication

It is important to have constantly open lines of communication between the teacher, parents, and students. The best way to contact me is by email- I will usually answer the same day. Also, for general class information you can see my website at http://oskin.net. Additionally, if a student has a ‘D’ grade for an extended period of time in my class they can expect a phone call to parents. I welcome parent contact and questions, and look forward to hearing from many of you.

Last Note- How to do well in this Class

Students will always ask “What’s the easiest way to pass your class?” There is a simple answer to this question: Show up to class every day on time and do the assigned work carefully and consistently. Students who do this in mine or any other class find it virtually impossible to fail, and in fact usually do quite well. The secret to being a good student (or, really, being good at anything) is no secret: show up and try. It’s that simple.